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David Matthews - Complete Piano Trios

Leonore Piano Trio
Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 34 (1983)
I Lento – Allegro moderato
II Allegretto. Drily humorous
III Adagio
IV Molto moderato


Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 61 (1993)
I Allegro
II Adagio
III Scherzo: Molto allegro
IV Allegro moderato – Andante con moto – Presto


Piano Trio No. 3, Op. 97 (2005)
I Con vivacità
II Andante moderato


Journeying Songs, Op. 95, for solo cello (2004–8)
Gemma Rosefield, cello

I Con vivacità
II Andante moderato
III Song for Gemma: Andante trasognato – Allegro appassionato



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David Matthews is doubly fortunate. First, Toccata seem to be recording all of his chamber music with the string quartets already mostly available (Volume 1 ~ Volume 2 ~ Volume 3 ~ Volume 4). Secondly, on this disc, he has the wonderful, technically impeccable and sensitive Leonore Piano Trio as his performers.

Piano Trio No. 1 was written at the suggestion of that much admired figure — not least by Matthews — Hans Keller. The second movement of this trio, a scherzo, is a sort of character portrait of Keller. It is, as the composer writes in his very interesting and useful booklet notes, “drily humorous … conversational even argumentative” with a theme “of Jewish character and another with a Viennese lilt”. There is even a quote from Schoenberg. The first movement is in sonata form the use of which Keller would, it seems, have approved. The slow movement is a beautifully poised meditation which is a transcription of a song setting of a nature poem by Kathleen Raine. It was composed partially at least when, Matthews was staying on Canna, a remote Hebridean island. The finale is marked ‘Molto moderato’ and in it he ‘opts for utter simplicity”. It seems to form out of the previous movement but appearances can be deceptive — listeners will see if that epithet seems accurate. This Piano Trio No. 1 had been recorded in 1992 by the English Piano Trio on Kingdom (KCLCD 2029). Although, by and large, I prefer this new-comer the quicker tempo and lighter touch adopted by English Piano Trio in the fourth movement is more magical and suitably wistful.

The Piano Trio No 2 begins affirmatively with another, concise, sonata–allegro movement. Like the First Trio, another person close to Matthews is remembered and that is his one-time partner the novelist Maggie Hemingway who died in May 1993, aged 47. Her last novel ‘Eyes’ was partially set in Venice and the lengthy slow movement, here placed second, is a ‘Barcarolle’. Composer and writer had collaborated on three works including, in 1988, ‘Cantiga’ for soprano and orchestra. Perhaps something of her energy can be found in the exhilarating Scherzo and Trio, which is almost jazzy. The enigmatic finale ends with a flutter of disappearing birds after a wonderfully melodic middle section reminding us that Matthews is never frightened to write a tune with a touch of romance.

On reviewing Matthews' Quartet No. 12, in 2014, I described it as a masterwork and I feel the same about his Piano Trio No. 3. It is in two movements. The first was a compositional challenge which the composer says he tried out in the first movement of his Fourth Symphony, that is to write a movement without harmony but just with a line passed between the instruments or given in unison. It’s a quirky idea that has dramatic potential and here gradually builds ending, surprisingly, in a peaceful C major. There are three brief melodic ideas used in the movement and there are three main ideas in the ensuing Andante moderato, a much longer movement which is deeply chromatic. Although it begins in A minor and concludes in the tonic major it might end up being a rather long and complex exercise to analyse what happens in between. By way of contrast there is a brief and skittish middle Scherzo. The manipulation of the themes is clever and masterly and the work is largely imbued with an autumnal nostalgia, which has drawn me back a few times.

Journeying Songs consists of three movements dedicated to three women who are important to Matthews. The first ‘Song’ is for Judith Weir and was written on the occasion of her 50th birthday in 2004. The very brief second is to Elaine Gould a cellist who is also chief editor of Faber Music. The third is to the cellist recorded here, Gemma Rosefield. It proves the most quixotic of the three ‘songs’. They are all however, strongly lyrical and, as Matthews admits the first has a “ folkish character” and a “kinship to a Spanish/Arabic folksong”. Weir has herself used folk melodies as an inspiration for some of her own music.

It’s a real joy to hear Gemma Rosefield play her own piece and also the other two. Although written over a period of four years it was only in 2008, on the completion of the last piece, that Matthews gave the work its opus number.

Toccata are to be thanked and congratulated on the work they are doing on behalf of the prolific David Matthews whose post-romantic style appeals more and more as new works appear. His music makes a fascinating contrast to that of his brother Colin who perhaps has a more international appeal but whose music the celebrated ‘man in the street’ might find more challenging. All in all these scores are worth getting inside. A disc to search out.

Gary Higginson

   
 
   
 
The Classical Reviewer Review
 

Impressive performances from the Leonore Piano Trio and Gemma Rosefield on a new release from Toccata Classics of David Matthew’s Piano Trios and Journeying Songs for solo cello

Toccata Classics have already released a series of recordings of David Matthews’  String Quartets not to mention volume one of Music for Solo Violin and Music for Piano that includes his Piano Concerto and Piano Sonata.

Now Toccata Classics have released a recording of David Matthews’ Complete Piano Trios (to date) performed by the Leonore Piano Trio  with Gemma Rosefield performing Journeying Songs, Op. 95 for solo cello. David Matthews’ Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 34 (1983) was commissioned by Trio Zingara with funds from the Arts Council of Great Britain and first performed by them at the Purcell Room, London, UK in June 1984. In four movements, the piano introduces the slow opening Lento to which the strings bring a descending motif before soon picking up a pace to rush quickly forward in the Allegro moderato. These players bring a fine spring to the music that constantly seeks to find the opening calm yet always leaps up to move quickly forward through some terrific passages before seeming to find a peace in the curious coda.

The violin opens the Allegretto: Drily humorous with a repeated chord, responded to by the cello before the piano joins, all three players finding a lovely dialogue. Soon a broader passage emerges, yet the piano’s staccato chords return the air of playfulness, as do the string players in certain strange phrases, hinting at a more sinister undercurrent. Later on there are richer string chords, soon overtaken by a rhythmic pizzicato violin motif over a rich cello line before the piano has a final say in the coda. The Adagio has a fine melody for the strings that is overlaid by gentle piano chords as this lovely movement slowly finds its way forward, each instrument adding its own depth of feeling, combining to bring lovely textures. The music tries to rise, led by the piano but continues its exquisite way forward. These players find the most lovely sensitivity in the hushed phrases before a more passionate edge momentarily appears. The gentler nature returns with the piano leading over hushed harmonics that draw the movement to a gentle close.

The Molto moderato opens gently with a three note piano motif to which the cello, then violin gently add a melody, gorgeously played by this Trio. The violin takes the three note motif around which the piano and cello wind the varied melody. It is quite wonderful how Matthews draws so many fine ideas from this simple figure, rising in passion a little before the gentle coda.                                      

The Chagall Trio commissioned Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 61 (1993) with funds from the Arts Council of Great Britain, giving its premiere at the Assembly House, Norwich, Norfolk, UK as part of the Norwich Festival in October 1993.

Again in four movements, the Allegro opens with a blustery theme, full of energy, rising through some incisive bars as the idea is developed with the Leonore Piano Trio bringing terrific ensemble and precision before a sudden unresolved conclusion.  

The Adagio is a memorial piece for the composer’s partner, the writer Maggie Hemingway. The piano slowly opens with the violin bringing a long drawn line, a fine melody. The cello joins adding a lovely depth before the music rises a little in dynamics with these players bringing some quite wonderful textures and harmonies. The music moves through a haunting, slow, hushed section before finding more of a forward flow and gaining in richness and dynamics, bringing a real passion. Eventually the music drops to a hushed, gentle moment that leads back to the former gentle flow before a hushed coda.

The Scherzo: Molto allegro brings an urgency as the players play a rather syncopated, frantic theme that hurtles forward with insistent phrases. Soon there are broad piano chords over the desperate strings before a middle section where the theme is varied. Finally the music picks up to hurtle forward to the coda.

There are light, gossamer harmonies from the strings in the opening of the Allegro moderato - Andante con moto – Presto to which the piano brings little repeated notes and out of which emerges a rather anguished melody. The music finds a kind of entranced calm with some lovely details before a faster section for piano with pizzicato violin. Eventually the music rushes forward with beautifully light textures to the coda. This is a particularly fine trio.

Piano Trio No. 3, Op. 97 (2005) was commissioned by the Leasowes Bank Festival, Shropshire, UK and first performed by the Chamber Music Company in July 2005.

In two movements, the piano brings a lively motif in the opening of the Con vivacità that is quickly varied and taken up by the cello before all three share the theme. This trio finds some lovely textures and sonorities with the theme in its various guises, fairly leaping up each time out of the more restrained moments. There are fine broad intervals whilst always keeping a bubbling energy. Later the violin winds the lovely melody, rising to the heights before all three bring about a slow, finely controlled, hushed coda.

The piano brings a languid theme with some lovely dissonances appearing in the Andante moderato to which the cello adds a deep, rich tone, soon joined by the violin in what is a quite wonderful melody, finding lovely textures. The music suddenly drops to a hushed passage with the strings finding much anguished beauty before rising, only to fall to another hushed passage. These players find much feeling as they develop through terrific textures and harmonies. The music reaches a brief dynamic peak before falling back into a Presto section where the passion is let loose as the music rushes headlong through some terrific bars. But it is the languid pace that prevails right to the end.

The Leonore Piano Trio’s cellist, Gemma Rosefield brings a very fine performance of Journeying Songs, Op. 95 for solo cello (2004/08) to conclude this disc.

Song for Judith: Robusto was commissioned by the Hampstead and Highgate Festival with funds from the John S Cohen Foundation and is dedicated to Judith Weir on her 50th birthday. Strummed chords open around which Gemma Rosefield brings some lovely rich textures before developing through passages that have subtle Eastern inflections, whilst the strummed chords often create a rather Iberian flavour. This music allows so much opportunity for expression from the soloist in passages of varying textures with Gemma Rosefield extracting so much from her instrument.  Later the music picks up the pace in a fast moving section with rapid phrases, brilliantly played here, gaining in passion. Towards the end there are rapid harmonics before slowing and quietening for a thoughtful coda, a Pastoral where strummed chords conclude.

Song for Elaine: Poco lento e quieto was written for the Chief Editor at Faber Music, Elaine Gould. Gemma Rosefield draws a long slow line as this reflective melody expands through more passionate moments to a quiet coda on plucked chords.

Song for Gemma: Andante trasognato - Allegro appassionato was composed for the soloist here, Gemma Rosefield. It has a plaintive melody that is soon interrupted by more energetic, dynamics phrases. This piece ranges across the cello, extracting many fine textures, sonorities and varying tonal qualities through passages of great passion and momentum.

Gemma Rosefield is an excellent advocate of this brilliant work.

There are some wonderful works here, impressively played, containing some of Matthews’ finest music. They receive excellent recordings and there are informative notes from the composer.



 
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CDA68159
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Taneyev & Rimsky-Korsakov: Piano Trios

Piano Trio in D major Op 22 by Sergei Taneyev
1.Allegro
2.Allegro molto – Tema con variazioni – Tempo del commincio
3.Andante espressivo
4.Allegro con brio


Piano Trio in C minor by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
1.Allegro
2.Allegro
3.Adagio
4.Adagio – Allegro assai

Rimsky-Korsakov described Taneyev’s best music as possessing ‘a wealth of beauty and expressiveness’, a verdict with which no one is likely to disagree after hearing the piano trio recorded here. Rimsky was (unjustly) disparaging towards his own, unfinished, trio, which emerges as a brooding, substantial work well worthy of revival.


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TANEYEV: Piano Trio, Op. 22; RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Piano Trio in C minor – Leonore Piano Trio, Hyperion ****:
by Audiophile Audition/ April 2, 2017/ Classical CD Reviews

Sizzling performance of two late Romantic piano trios.
TANEYEV: Piano Trio, Op. 22; RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Piano Trio in C minor – Leonore Piano Trio, Hyperion CDA 68159, 77’58, ****:

In addition to becoming significant Russian composers, both Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915) and Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov (1844-1908) taught many others: Glazunov, Myaskovsky, Stravinsky, Rachmaninov and Gliere, to name a few. Taneyev was the soloist in almost all of Tchaikovsky’s works for piano and orchestra. Rimsky-Korsakov sought technical advice from the Russian master.

At age ten Taneyev enrolled as a pianist at the Moscow Conservatory and after three years became Tchaikovsky’s student. When Tchaikovsky resigned from this institution, Taneyev took his place at age 22. He concentrated on writing over a dozen works for chamber music, some of them with piano so he could perform them. He was a maverick compared to his Russian contemporaries because his music was based on Renaissance polyphony and Bachian counterpoint rather than folk melodies from his homeland. Schumann and Brahms were also influences. He composed slowly, focusing on formal design and contrapuntal textures.

The Piano Trio of 1907 starts boldly with strong piano chords contrasted with lyrical string motives. Tanyevev’s contrapuntal mastery results in a sonata-allegro first movement that alternates melody with dramatic surges. The inventive Scherzo is a playful and impulsive theme and variations. The Leonore Trio’s brilliant and exciting traversal of this movement is a highlight of the disc. An ardent slow movement features a dialogue between the cello and violin interspersed with piano chords. A stirring and expressive Finale summarizes the work.
It took the composer Maximilian Steinberg (Rimsky-Korsakov’s son-in-law) to complete and publish the 1908 Piano Trio of Rimsky-Korsakov. “I composed a string quartet in G major and a trio for violin, cello and piano in C minor. The latter composition remained unfinished, and both of these compositions proved to me that chamber music was not my field, the composer wrote. The mellifluous melodious content of the first movement puts us in debt to the Leonore Trio for recording this attractive and serious work. The humorously skittish Scherzo sizzles and plaintively rhapsodizes. The Adagio is a somber contrast, yet the melodic content is of exceptional pulchritude. The pensive and slow beginning of the Finale belies the creatively of this 15 minute movement. Sections of persistent drama, a pensive piano solo, a deeply felt cello and violin duet and a thrilling climax make this an irresistible piano trio.

The thrilling performances of the Leonore Piano make these late Romantic works come alive and Hyperion has provided their usual superb sonics.
— Robert Moon

   
Famfare Magazine

TANEYEV Piano Trio. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Piano Trio  —  Leonore Piano Trio  —
 HYPERION 68159 (77:58)
The Leonore Piano Trio was formed in 2012 and consists of pianist Tim Horton (no relation, I assume, to the Canadian fast-food chain of the same name), violinist Benjamin Nabarro, and cellist Gemma Rosefield. Each of its members also has a solo career in addition to performing in this and other ensembles. Prior recordings include the trios of Anton Arensky (reviewed by Barry Brenesal in 37:6) and of Édouard Lalo (reviewed by Jerry Dubins in 39:5).
As I have noted in previous reviews, Rimsky-Korsakov did not have a high opinion of his 1897 C-Minor Piano Trio. Concluding that “chamber music is not my area,” he abandoned the work before completing it, and the finishing touches were applied long after his death by his protégé and son-in-law Maximilian Steinberg. Much as I love Rimsky’s music, and especially his wonderful operas, I have in the past had to share his reservations about the Piano Trio. I did, however, revise my opinion somewhat, in a more favorable direction, after hearing the fervent and expressive performance by pianist Miki Aoki, violinist Andrey Baranov, and cellist Alexey Zhilin (Profil, reviewed in 37:2), which served the music better than the reserved, just-the-notes approach of the Kinsky Trio (Praga, reviewed in 35:6).

This new recording by the Leonore Trio confirms that there is more of value in this work than the self-critical composer may have recognized. The thematic material of the first movement is quite ingratiating and is skillfully worked out. It does not, however, sound much like the very Russian Rimsky of most of the operas or the orientalist Rimsky of Scheherazade, and there is little to identify it as the work of a Russian composer. The Leonore and Aoki performances of this movement are very well played, but they otherwise differ substantially in character. The Leonore reading is swifter and more urgent, even fiery, similar in that respect to a 1952 recording by the Oistrakh Trio (Brilliant), while that of Aoki et al. is more relaxed, yielding, lyrical, and flowing. The tonal suavity of the Leonore string players contrasts with the earthier sonority of the Aoki ensemble. The most obvious difference between the two recordings, however, is that the Aoki observes the exposition repeat, lengthening the movement to 16 minutes. In the brief, Schumannesque scherzo, the Leonore Trio once again seems a bit more urgent and the Aoki ensemble more relaxed, although the difference in timing is minimal. In the slow movement, the Aoki team is conventionally lyrical and expressive, with pronounced shaping and plenty of rubato, while the Leonore Trio’s approach is subtler and more nuanced, as well as being a bit quicker, and is emotional in a more elevated and reflective manner. Although I previously dismissed it as tiresome, I now find more to like in the very lengthy finale (15 minutes in both of these recordings), with its extended fugal sections. The Aoki performance is good, but the Leonore reading offers more refined string playing as well as greater tension, rhythmic incisiveness, and textural clarity.

If Rimsky dabbled in chamber music only occasionally and with some ambivalence, for Sergei Taneyev it was the primary medium of musical expression. And whatever the merits of the Rimsky work, Taneyev’s op. 22 Trio in D Major (completed in 1907 or 1908 depending on which source you believe) is in another league entirely in terms of density of argument, harmonic complexity, and sheer gravitas. Taneyev was renowned for his knowledge of counterpoint, and that knowledge is amply applied in this trio. But there is also much melodic interest in this work. The first movement is replete with ascending figures that suggest yearning or striving. The annotator for this release comments that in Taneyev’s music “the ideas themselves are not always striking.” The furious, upward-thrusting motif that opens the second movement and is one of its principal themes is definitely striking. That movement appears to be a scherzo, but in place of the usual trio section Taneyev inserts a series of contrasting variations on a theme drawn from the initial section. The Andante espressivo slow movement shows that Taneyev was capable of writing music of Romantic lyricism and poignancy, here punctuated by two serene and magical interludes for the piano alone. The thematic material of the sonata-form finale, much of it derived from ideas heard earlier in the work, is rhapsodic but is spun into a highly involved contrapuntal development. In all, this is unquestionably an important work, and a major contribution to the genre.

In this work, the Leonore Trio faces serious competition from the Borodin Trio (Chandos, currently available only on download) and from an ensemble consisting of Mikhail Pletnev, Vadim Repin, and Lynn Harrell (DG). The former was apparently never reviewed in Fanfare, but the latter made it onto no less than three Want Lists in 2005 and 2006. The 1952 recording by the Oistrakh Trio (Brilliant) is obviously not competitive in sound quality but is worth considering for interpretive issues. I haven’t heard the CPO recording by pianist Anna Zassimova, violinist Albrecht Breuninger, and cellist Bernhard Lörcher, acclaimed by Barry Brenesal in 38:1. The Borodin players approach the work with their characteristic combination of broad pacing, elasticity, tonal weight, and forceful accents. Their timing of 45:45 is by far the longest; the other three performances clock in at between 38 and 39 minutes.  But the venerable Borodin ensemble makes it work, and nothing it does strikes me as too slow. The Leonore Trio’s pacing for the first movement is similar to that of Pletnev’s ensemble; the Oistrakh Trio is a bit quicker overall but more variable in tempo. The Leonore reading stands out for its flowing lyricism, linear continuity, and unflagging momentum. This ensemble delivers the fastest rendition of the scherzo, one that is especially fiery and hair-raising. The precision, incisiveness, and clarity of the playing at this breakneck pace are most impressive. The central variation section is given a brisk and urgent treatment, one that emphasizes continuity and integration more than do the Pletnev and Oistrakh performances, where the variations are more individualized. The Leonore players’ treatment of the slow movement is forward-moving, flowing, and passionate, with subtle expressive inflections. Pletnev’s ensemble is quicker, and a bit too brisk and matter-of-fact. The Oistrakh Trio, like the Borodin, adopts a much more deliberate although flexible pace. In the Allegro con brio finale, too, I again prefer the Leonore Trio’s tempo to the quicker one of Pletnev’s ensemble, which sometimes makes the music seem too jaunty. Repin’s playing is more incisively articulated here than is Nabarro’s, but the Leonore approach again emphasizes integration and continuity, and it better captures the sense of exaltation implicit in this music.
The sound of the Hyperion recording is excellent, with a spacious soundstage and transparency of texture. The piano tone is solid and well defined, with no blurring or ringing. The frequency balance is well judged, with a strong but not exaggerated bass presence and no excessive brightness. The many dynamic peaks in the music have a powerful and well-focused impact.
I have a narrow but definite preference for the Leonore performance of the Rimsky Trio over the very good one by Aoki et al. In the Taneyev work, the Leonore Trio is competitive in a distinguished field. The latest release by this excellent ensemble deserves a strong recommendation.
Daniel Morrison 

   
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CDA68113
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Édouard Lalo (1823-1892)

Piano Trio No 1 in C minor Op 7
Allegro moderato
Romance: Andante
Scherzo: Allegretto
Final: Récit ad lib – Allegro

Piano Trio No 2 in B minor
Allegro maestoso
Andante con moto
Minuetto: Allegretto
Allegro agitato

Piano Trio No 3 in A minor Op 26
Allegro appassionato
Presto
Très lent
Allegro molto


Édouard Lalo sat at one remove from the French Musical Establishment, eschewing both the back-scratching of the Conservatoire and its members’ impressionist ‘musiques parfumées’. Instead we have big-boned melody—material into which the expert members of the Leonore Piano Trio sink their bows and fingers with appreciative gusto


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Gramophone Magazine

Geoffrey Norris - Gramophone - January 2016

The spirits of both Mendelssohn and Schumann haunt Edouard Lalo’s three piano trios. In the third of them there is also a hint of something weightier in the manner of Brahms, but none of them reveals any vestige of influence from Lalo’s native France.

Lalo is principally known these days for his five-movement Symphonie espagnole, a violin concerto that capitalises on his own knowledge of the instrument as violinist in the Armingaud Quartet, which was at the forefront of reviving France’s interest in chamber music from the mid-1850s onwards. As these luminous performances of the piano trios reveal, Lalo looked to Germany for his inspiration at a time when there was not much in France to be inspired by in the realms of chamber music.

But the influences are lightly worn: nods to Mendelssohn and Schumann in terms of gesture, texture and melodic contour—as, for example, in the song-without-words-like slow movement of the First Trio in C minor—can be heard coursing through this music, but there is something of Lalo’s own in the lightness of touch, the elegance and what his biographer Georges Servières called the ‘chaste tenderness free of sentimentality and a burning passion relieved of unwholesome eroticism’. The burning passion is ignited more in the third of the trios than in the other two, and it is something that the Leonore Trio harness to striking effect. The suavity of playing is another key factor in lending all three trios the polish and panache that they merit.

 
BBC Music Magazine
Jessica Duchen - BBC Music Magazine - December 2015

 **** PERFORMANCE
 **** RECORDING

To step into the world of Lalo's piano trios is a startling experience. This is miles from the Symphonie espagnole—one of few pieces of his we hear regularly in concerts these days; and light years even from Saint-Saëns. Lalo brings us, on one level, French Romanticism wound to its tautest: the atmosphere recalls the dark-hued battle scenes of Delacroix or the ferocious side of Balzac. The composer's great passion, however, was for Schumann, as may be heard in the extreme turbulence and emotional drive of these pieces. Sometimes you feel he is trying to squeeze in the humble medium of the piano trio material that could have flourished happily on full orchestra. The excellent Leonore trio certainly give their all in these often exciting and beautiful works, most especially the B minor Trio, No 2. There's high virtuosity all round—superb light, dazzling backgrounds from Tim Horton, searing intensity of tone from violinist Benjamin Nabarro and cellist Gemma Rosefield. Now and then you might wonder if they're overstating the case but get into the spirit and it's terrific stuff.
 
Sunday Times
David Cairns - The Sunday Times - January 2016

Since the death more than 50 years ago of Sir Thomas Beecham, who championed him (the Symphony in G minor was a Beecham favourite), the music of Edouard Lalo (1823-92) has rather languished here. But now comes a remarkable disc of his piano trios by the Leonore, who make a good case for them. If the rather Schumannesque first (c1850) is slightly anonymous, the other two, especially the B minor, are strong, original pieces—a real discovery.
 
Classical Source

Colin Anderson - Classical Source - February 2016

The Lille-born Édouard Lalo (1823-92) studied at the Paris Conservatoire and died in that city. His most-famed work is the violin-and-orchestra Symphonie espagnole, followed by his score for the ballet Namouna. Other orchestral works include a G-minor Symphony and a propulsive Scherzo. His chamber-music catalogue embraces numerous examples, not least the three Piano Trios, handsomely and generously gathered on this Hyperion release by the Leonore Piano Trio.

Each is a pleasing work in four movements, very enjoyable to listen to. Captured in immediate recorded sound, the Leonore members are sterling advocates for these three works in which Lalo creates music that is well-crafted, tuneful and emotionally communicative. This is composition with a light touch and which is lucidly constructed. The C-minor Trio, believed to have been written in 1850, opens with an outgoing Allegro that will appeal to admirers of Mendelssohn, and the rest of the Trio is similarly expressive and unpretentious.

This amiable creation is followed by more-ambitious works, both lasting close on half-an-hour. The B-minor instance (probably written in 1852 and without-opus-number) contrasts robust, yearning and delicate aspects in the first movement, the slow movement is an intimate affair with song at its heart, and next comes a delightfully gawky Minuet. The Finale, although the shortest movement of the four, is a successful if restless resolution of the work for which Schumann would be a good reference.

From many years later, 1880, the A-minor Trio is closer to Brahms in its ardent declamation, if with Gallic insouciance. The musical ideas are strong. Guess what … the next movement, marked Presto, serves as the basis for the afore-mentioned orchestral Scherzo. In its chamber guise it is also terrific in its exciting drive and chiselled rhythms. The slow movement is as intense as it is veiled, and the Finale strides forth with determination and is not without meaningful twists. Aimez-vous Saint-Saëns's music? Then you will appreciate Lalo's.

These are pieces well-worth getting to know. They are thoroughly well-served by the performers and the production values and also by Roger Nichols’s enlightening booklet note.

 
MusicWeb International

Jonathan Woolf - MusicWeb International - February 2016

Lalo’s Piano Trios are not unknown by any means but you’d be doing well to claim any real familiarity with them either on disc or in the concert hall. All three are sealed with a Schumannesque kiss: Lalo was unusual in his veneration of German music and few others of his compatriots would have been outspoken enough to declare that ‘Germany is my true musical fatherland’ and he practised compositionally what he preached.

The C minor Trio was written around 1850, the product of a composer then barely 27. It opens with a ruminative soliloquy for the cello—you won’t find flashy tricks in Lalo—before he introduces the first of his strongly contoured melodies. Agitato sections melt into flowing cantabile ones. With much expressive weight falling on the cello, it’s important that the string players match bow weight and vibrato speed and are sensible about unison passages—fortunately the Leonore Piano Trio players have clearly put in a lot of thought to these matters. The slow movement is, in essence, a Romance sans paroles whilst the scherzo is a doughty dance. Annotator Roger Nichols calls it ‘fairies dancing in lederhosen’—maybe he’s playing on Tovey’s old Sibelian trope of the Violin Concerto’s ‘polonaise for polar bears’. Predictably the cello’s recitative starts an ingratiating Schumannesque-cum-Mendelssohnian finale.

The Trio in B minor followed about two years later—no one seems quite sure as to the exact dates of composition of these two early trios. There are hymnal qualities to its opening and one of his most infectiously attractive melodies in the flowing cantabile of the slow movement. The scherzo is wittily projected with quite a theatrical trio section and there’s a deal of agitato in the finale, but also lashings of brio and verve and sheer tunefulness. It would be hard to judge these two works retrogressive stylistically, given the rough date of their composition. Their centre of gravity is certainly Germanic, but Lalo’s absorption of his models is excellent and thoroughly convincing.

By the time of the 1880 trio—the date for this one is known—nearly thirty years had elapsed since his last piano trio. Starting appassionato, the writing is now more harmonically questing even, sometimes, a touch piquant. A strikingly persistent piano is answered in the scherzo by strings that sound more resilient than ebullient—a most invigorating piece of characterisation. The slow movement is a funeral march, though its elegy is balanced by sufficient contrast, whilst the finale does sound just a little Brahmsian, despite Lalo’s protestations that he disliked Brahms’ music, allied to more evidence of his much-loved Schumann. This is certainly the most structurally sophisticated of the trios, as one would expect from its date of composition.

Benjamin Nabarro, Gemma Rosefield and Tim Horton make a very convincing case for this trio of trios and the production—recording, notes, and design—is up to Hyperion’s high standards.

 
All Music
James Manheim - AllMusic USA - January 2016

The first two of these three piano trios by Edouard Lalo are among the few examples of French chamber music in the middle of the 19th century. The trios have never been well known, and even the dates of composition of the first two are uncertain. This is all very odd, given that chamber musicians in no way have a surfeit of material from the Romantic era, and all three of these trios are more than competent examples. They are based on German models, and nothing about them would cause you to guess that they were by the composer of the Symphonie espagnole in D minor, Op 21. The first two are heavily influenced by Schumann and Mendelssohn without sounding precisely like either one. Especially in the slow movements they resemble the melodies of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words rather than that composer's weightier string quartets, and the tunes are strong enough to leave themselves hanging in your head after the music is done. The Piano Trio No 3 in A minor, Op 26, is denser; here the model is Brahms. The Leonore Piano Trio, with none other than Tim Horton on piano, delivers clean, light performances that respect the music's craft without trying to make of it more than is there, and they're aided greatly by superb engineering work from Hyperion in the prime British venue for chamber music, the Wyastone Estate Concert Hall. Recommended for Romantic chamber music buffs.
 
Classics Today

Jed Distler - Classics Today.com - January 2016

You really want to like Edouard Lalo’s first two piano trios. The composer writes supremely well for violin, cello, and piano, and handles the genre with skill, assurance, and fluency. His ear for texture and register always catches your attention, especially in the second subject of Trio No 2’s first movement, where a hymn-like cello theme is surrounded by soft, high-lying piano figurations, or in the varied solo/accompaniment and contrapuntal passages of the Trio No 1 finale. If only the musical ideas themselves were consistently so interesting and emotionally engaging as they are in his Trio No 3; its grippingly obsessive slow movement is worth the price of admission, while the volatile finale might be best described as “Schumann on steroids”.

The Leonore Piano Trio has much to offer in regard to its meticulous observing of Lalo’s wide-ranging dynamics. The players intensify quirky phrases with biting accents and discreet portamentos, such as those in the Trio No 2’s strange Minuetto, yet can deliver suavely dovetailed ensemble work in the Trio No 3’s tricky Presto Trio section, with its delicate yet melodically important pizzicatos.

The latter’s aforementioned finale may seem overwrought and super-intense in comparison with the relatively blended geniality of the Gryphon Trio and Trio Parnassus recordings. Then again, these two ensembles sidestep Lalo’s “con fuoco” directive that the Leonore Trio positively relishes. Hyperion’s engineers leave no detail unheard, although a slightly more distant perspective might have relieved occasional congestion in loud passages. On balance, this is the finest release with all three Lalo trios in the present and past catalogs.

 
   
 

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CDA68015
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Anton Arensky (1861-1906)

Piano Trio No 1 in D minor Op 32
Allegro moderato
Scherzo: Allegro molto
Elegia: Adagio
Finale: Allegro non troppo

Piano Trio No 2 in F minor Op 73
Allegro moderato
Romance: Andante
Scherzo: Presto
Tema con variazioni: Allegro non troppo

Vocalise (No 14 of Songs, Op 34) Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), arr. Julius Conus (1869-1942)

Arensky’s Piano Trios represent a fine example
of the Russian romantic piano trio,
a form ‘invented’ by Tchaikovsky,
Arensky’s close friend and influence.


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Reviews
 

Gramophone Magazine

Bryce Morrison - Gramophone - April 2014

This is the seventh in Hyperion’s series of Arensky discs, beautifully erasing Rimsky-Korsakov’s write-off (for him, Arensky was doomed to oblivion). Above all, here is music for all those who weary of grappling with the complexities of contemporary works to rejoice in an all-Russian fountain of melodic charm, embroidered with an alternating full and delicate tracery. True, as the admirable booklet-note has it, there are ‘accents of regret and melancholy’ never far below the surface of such riches, though Arensky wears such colouring more lightly and less engulfingly than Rachmaninov (his early D minor Trio) and less intensely than Tchaikovsky. Such shadows are swept aside in the scintillating Scherzo of the First Trio and returned to once more in the third-movement ‘Elegia’ before being erased in a finale of a robust and endearing eloquence.

The less familiar Second Trio in F minor is not so easily accessible as the First, less clearly structured and with a distinct advance in its greater sense of adventure. This time the second-movement ‘Romance’ precedes the Scherzo, alive with a heart-easing melody before the Scherzo once more flashes with summer lightning, particularly from the pianist. The finale is an ambitious set of variations, though with a quiet and magically sustained conclusion.

The Leonore Piano Trio then add as their encore an arrangement for trio of Rachmaninov’s ‘Vocalise’ by Julius Conus (1869-1942), a close friend of the composer who was also a student of Arensky—an ideal tying-up, as it were, of related themes and threads. The Leonores play with truly glorious affection and security, and it is hard to imagine playing of a greater empathy. Balance (there is no artificial highlighting) and sound are ideal.

 
The Observer
Stephen Pritchard - The Observer - March 2014

Following hard on the heels of Trio Wanderer’s imposing Harmonia Mundi recording of Anton Arensky’s Piano Trio No 1 we now have the Leonore’s readings of both his trios (with Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, arranged for piano trio, as a dreamy treat). Equally impressive, the Leonore Trio do much to persuade us to listen anew to Arensky—too often dismissed as a lightweight Tchaikovsky—playing with sumptuous breadth and beguiling warmth in the first trio, and with appropriate seriousness of intent in the altogether graver second. Revelatory playing from Benjamin Nabarro, violin, Gemma Rosefield, cello, and Tim Horton, piano.
 
   
   
   
 

© Leonore Piano Trio 2012